Is Treated Lumber Fence Environmentally Friendly?

Posted by Dawn Lowndes on Wed, Dec 08, 2010

The short answer is YES! The use of pressure-treated wood for fences is environmentally friendly. 

Wood Privacy fence virginia

Wood preservation allows for the use of renewable resources while preserving the amount of decay to the actual product. This effectively uses fewer trees because of the treatment. The use of trees, rather than plastics or metals is also better due to the known environmental costs of using petroleum based products.  Steel or aluminum fence production methods have higher energy expenditures during their manufacturing processes and this process can create large amounts of air and water pollution. The import of pre-production metals and actual fence material creates a higher dependency on foreign sources for imported material while increasing pollution as well. 

A note for consideration on this topic is, that if a sub-par installation crew installs fences, these fences will obviously need to be replaced sooner than may be otherwise called for. This is just one more reason to ‘qualify’ your fence installation company prior to purchasing a fence. Reducing the use of resources is the most effective way to protect our environment.

What is Pressure Treated Wood?

Wood for fence is often pressure-treated to lengthen its use-life and make it resistant to insects and decay.  Building codes often mandate the use of pressure treated wood for outdoor purposes.  Pressure treatment forces preservatives (such as Chromated Copper Arsenate – i.e. CCA; used in 98% of pressure treated wood for fence) deep into the cellular structure of the wood.  In a response to concerns about CCA, there are several arsenic free alternatives currently available. These include ACO, Borates, Copper Azole, Cyproconazole, and Propiconazole. More research on these products is widely available on the Internet for an in-depth appraisal.

What are the other Benefits of Preserved Wood?

Longer Life – The life of untreated outdoor wood products can be as short as one or two years.  CCA-preserved wood has been shown to last over 40 years.

Proven Track Record – CCA-preserved wood has been around for more than 70 years.  It is EPA approved and has a history of effectiveness.

Fits the Budget – The use of other materials like aluminum or steel costs more, due to the higher costs of production and the frequent reliance on imported materials.   

What the Experts Say

“We have to be careful to preserve forests by using wood resources to the maximum, and using materials such as CCA extends the life of resources at least five-fold.”

Dr. Stanley Rhodes, President of Scientific Certification Systems

“Through the use of preservatives in pressure treated lumber for fences, porches, decks and homes, we have saved a forest of trees two times the size of New England.”

The late Dr. Dixy Lee Ray, former Governor of Washington state

Article contributed by fence professional Spalding Showalter.

Topics: Residential Fence, Fence, pressure treated fence

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